I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in McPherson, Kansas.
Greetings from McPherson, Kansas!
N 38° 22.221 W 097° 37.699 Elev. 1484 ft.
I made a very, very important discovery: Really good pre-made Tuna and Chicken salads! Both of them are made by Pilgrim’s Pride, which I thought was curious as PP’s main gig is chicken. (Then again, tuna is the chicken of the sea, right?)
I found them both at Braum’s, a family-owned chain of combination ice cream/dairy store, fast-food restaurant, and miniature market located all over Oklahoma and parts of Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri.
My initial introduction to Braum’s was less than stellar, to say the least. It was late, I was tired and wanted something hot to eat, fast. So I got a double cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate malt from the Braum’s in Carthage, Missouri.
Well, it smelled good enough and was actually still hot by the time I parked the yacht and set up house (i.e., put up the satellite dish). Then I took a bite of the burger and … jeezus freakin’ christ! It was the saltiest thing I’d had in my mouth since I involuntarily swallowed a gallon of Pacific Ocean as a child. I mean, it was bad. Worse than bad. And to add insult to injury, I was starving to death, so I ended up choking the salt-lick-on-a-bun down anyway, along with the by-then cold fries. Yuk. The malt, while exceptionally delicious, didn’t make up for the abusive burger and cold fries.
My next brush with Braum’s, however, was much more pleasant, not to mention markedly more palatable. I was on I-35 in southern Oklahoma when I ran out of hours and had to stop in Pauls Valley. After I parked I kept watching their little reader board flash “Steak Sandwich $1.99”. Eventually my piqued curiosity peaked and I couldn’t take it anymore and I had to find out what kind of steak they could possibly be selling for two bucks.
The answer turned out to be one of those chicken-fried steak patties like they sell in the frozen food sections of grocery stores, usually in bulk packs. It was actually quite good, served on a hamburger bun — Braum’s has its own very good bakery — with mayonnaise, leaf lettuce and tomato. Very simple and quite delicious really.
While I was waiting for the mystery steak sandwich I wandered over to their little “Fresh Market” section to get a half-gallon of Chocolate Milk ($1.75). They have some of the very best. It’s whole milk, rBGH-free, really thick, creamy and chocolatey. As I was walking to the register I passed the Deli case and discovered the Tuna and Chicken salads (both $3.29/12 oz.).
The Tuna salad is not too wet and has super-crunchy bits of celery in it. It tastes like it also has some sweet pickle relish in it, but I’m not sure as the list of ingredients is truly microscopic; even my evil twin Skippy couldn’t read it. Likewise the Chicken salad is not too wet and has the crunchy celery bits. I bought another tub of Chicken Salad the other day and, unlike the first one, this one says it’s Chunky. Whether it is or not (I haven’t opened it yet) I could see taking it and mixing it with a small can of chunked chicken and easily feeding four adults — just add bread. Talk about good, cheap, and delicious road food!
I can’t recommend these enough. They were so good, in fact, that I went high-end gourmet with both my Tuna and Chicken sandwiches: I bought some green leaf lettuce. A small packet of mayo on the side with the lettuce and BAM! … you’ve got yourself a $7 bistro sandwich even Hilda Lagasse would love.
(So good was it that I even considered buying a $10 toaster. “Ooh, toasted bread,” I thought. Thankfully I regained my senses before I ended up with an appliance I have no desire to stow, much less use regularly.)
I also bought some Mustard Potato Salad ($1.49/16 oz.). It too was really good, not too sweet with nice chunks of potato that weren’t overcooked and, again, the crunchy celery bits. I just added a little pepper to it and, voila, insta-gourmet!
Additionally, I made sort of a curious scientific-ish discovery. In the past I’ve bought Iceberg lettuce and my Coleman Thermoelectric Cooler would promptly freeze it; the cooler is technically a simple (miraculous) heat exchanger. Not only did the leaf lettuce not freeze, it stayed fresh and crisp until I finished the whole head (well over a week!!). I don’t understand the physics involved, but I suspect it’s all a matter of water content and the density of the head or something. Perhaps some food physicist could explain it. Paging Alton Brown ….
And so we roll.
(Note: I took the pictures of the Braum’s in McPherson as it had just opened and was devoid of customers. When I tried to take an up-close picture of the menu-board, however, I was stopped by a woman (the manager?) who said I couldn’t take pictures of it because “some people could alter it and make it say nasty things or something.” I told her I didn’t have PhotoShop; I didn’t tell her “It’s obvious what’s on your mind.”)
Braum’s - 2106 E Kansas Ave. McPherson, Kansas,
with locations throughout the mid- to lower-Midwest.
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.